Admiral Tapped to Lead Navy Wants to Get to 'Root Causes' of SEAL Scandals

Navy Vice Adm. Michael M. Gilday testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 31, 2019, in Washington, D.C. The committee met to hear testimony on Gilday’s nomination as the chief of naval operations. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Navy Vice Adm. Michael M. Gilday testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 31, 2019, in Washington, D.C. The committee met to hear testimony on Gilday’s nomination as the chief of naval operations. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The three-star flag officer nominated to serve as the Navy's next top officer told lawmakers he will hold any wrongdoers in the service's elite special warfare ranks accountable "very swiftly and very firmly" after the community has been rocked by a series of scandals.

Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, who has been nominated to serve as the next chief of naval operations, said he expects all sailors and officers to uphold the highest standards -- including Navy SEALs.

"I commit, Senator, to getting a better understanding of those issues, to holding people accountable if and where they need to be held accountable, to getting after the root causes -- so if there is a problem with the culture and community, that that is addressed very quickly and very firmly," Gilday told lawmakers during his Wednesday nomination hearing.

He was asked to explain how he'll address disciplinary problems in the Navy Special Warfare community after a platoon was recently kicked out of the war zone over allegations of sexual assault and alcohol use. The unusual move follow reports of cocaine use in SEAL Team 10 and allegations that a member of the elite SEAL Team 6 spoofed someone by text to get nude photos.

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SEALs have also recently been involved in high-profile court cases, including that of Special Warfare Operator Eddie Gallagher, who was recently found not guilty in connection to the death of an Islamic State group detainee in Iraq. He was found guilty of wrongfully posing for a photo with a human casualty.

Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews was recently sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty for his actions in a botched hazing attempt that left Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar dead. Another SEAL in that case, Chief Special Warfare Operator Anthony DeDolph, faces trial next month.

"Ethics is a particularly important point for me, and that begins at the top with my leadership and it extends through all the flag officers, as well as our commanders and right down to chief petty officers that I consider the critical link to ensure that, every day we go to work, we bring our values," Gilday said. "It's especially important in combat that those values be maintained."

He stressed that problems plaguing the service, including sexual assault, racism and domestic violence, have no place in the Navy.

"My commitment to this committee is that I will try to set the best example that I can from the top and that I will lean on our flag officers, our commanders and in particular our chief petty officers to ensure that this ethos is something that we bring to work every day and something that we live, whether it's on or off the job," Gilday said.

Senators from both sides of the aisle indicated during the hearing that they support Gilday's nomination to serve as CNO.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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